More Old Man’s War Movie News

Because I know you’re interested!

Here’s the latest.

And before you ask, yes, it’s fairly normal to have one writer do rewrites on a script another has done a first pass on, and yes, it’s a good thing for the movie, since they wouldn’t have someone doing rewrites if they weren’t continuing to be interested in developing the film (because, you know, rewrites cost money). So this is all pretty good news for those of you who want to see OMW on the silver screen.

130 Comments on “More Old Man’s War Movie News”

  1. Sweet! Here’s hoping it ends up being as great as the book! I am a bit concerned at the description in Variety though, it says that “he decides to abandon his unit and risk everything to be with her.” Which, of course, never happened, as his old unit (along with 250,000 other troops) got wiped out by the Rraey!

  2. Very excited re more news. The plot synopsis on the link was a bit odd though. He “abandons his unit”?

  3. So does the writer of the new script ever actually call you up and ask questions about the book or the universe, or is it pretty much his own thing?

  4. Are there any books made into movies where anyone says the movie was better? Can’t think of any off the top of my head.

  5. Well, I just finished re-reading it the day before yesterday, and:

    he decides to abandon his unit and risk everything to be with her.

    isn’t entirely accurate. Still, it could make a great film.

    If they can find enough green body paint.

  6. ya know, there’s ‘adaptation’ of a book, and then there’s ‘change the whole storyline’…. I really don’t like the ‘change the whole storyline’ versions. In fact, I really HATE when they do that to an already fantastic story….

  7. @Scalzi: Blasphemy! But after a quick internet search, I offer: Princess Bride, The Shining, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Psycho. Not to derail the topic of Old Man’s war, which has no chance of being better than the book.

  8. Film and book are such different media, it’s really hard to compare them.

    Thanks for the update, Scalzi; I hope the film is a smashing success and that you’re happy with what they do with it. Do you end up with some kind of writing credit? “Adapted from a novel by John Scalzi”?

  9. hm. This will be an interesting casting challenge. They’ll need someone who is physically young, physically extremely fit, but can carry the presence of someone with 75 years life experiences.

    My wife would probably suggest Hugh Jackman. But she’s suggests Hugh Jackman as a solution to lots of challenges.

    Trash needs taking out? Hugh Jackman.

  10. Killroy: While I agree that both Princess Bride and The Shining are excellent movies, I wouldn’t go as far as saying they’re better than the original books. The whole comparison of different fruits things.

    Now Men in Black was a much better movie than it’s original source material, but I’m sure somewhere there’s someone who thinks the movie ruined the comic book’s story.

  11. Some of the orbit scenes should be really interesting. Falling down firing final shots as gravity takes over. Gotta keep in the space elevator as well.

  12. Haha! I agree about Rings! After Kilroy’s question, I had a ready answer in my head (the LotR movies!) Then I followed your link.

  13. I can already see the battle scene with Kermit singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” in the background. Of course that was the song playing in my head during each battle scene while reading the book, so there could be something wrong with me.

  14. Thinking back on your linked post on books, movies and the lack of relationship of their relative greatness, I have one item to suggest: “Silence of the Lambs.”
    An exemplar of its form in both book and film versions, and yet the film is relatively faithful to the book.

  15. I’ve read Agent to the Stars, Androids Dream, Fuzzy Nation, and Redshirts. Enjoyed them all. But I’ve picked Old Man’s War up several times and just haven’t been able to get into it. It seems so heavy, from what little I’ve read… does more humor surface if one persists?

  16. schnauzer, don’t know how far you read, but if you got to the part where the old folks are in the space station making fart/bowel jokes, that’s about as funny as it gets. It’s mostly a “serious” book, taking its cues from “Starship Troopers”

  17. I hope the guy actually reads the book before the re-write. I so hate it when they change characters and plots for no obvious reason.

  18. While it may be fairly normal to do re-writes, why does this particular script need one? Was the first script writer not competent enough? Did they not feel your original dialog was good enough? It would concern me (not that I will probably ever have this worry) that re-writes will lead to an inconsistent tone.

  19. Allow me to set up this tripod with a gun pointing at the previous writer and hand you a string tied to the trigger. I’m curious to see if you’ll pull it.

  20. Well… the humor is more in absurdity, like a super-high-tech mind-implanted computer being called a Brain Pal. But yeah, it’s not light humor. I read it after I’d been reading John’s blog for a while but before reading any of his other fiction, and it seemed to follow naturally from his blog style, but if you’re used to his lighter stuff it might seem tough going.

    Regarding the post topic, I’d think that Perry “abandoning his unit to be with her” is a pretty big change, not just an adaptation. Minor change of plot, major change of characterization, as abandoning people who are depending on him is pretty much the antithesis of what he’s about. So I hope that’s just Variety getting it wrong, because to me that makes the protagonist much less likeable and more cliche.

  21. “Are there any books made into movies where anyone says the movie was better? Can’t think of any off the top of my head.”

    Stardust. Hands down. The book was good. The movie was excellent. Bonus: Robert DeNiro.

    I don’t think the movie Princess Bride was better than the book. They were booth really, really good. But it’s a very good case of the movie being different from the book in a good way. Same wtih Coroline. The storytelling in a movie is so very different than that in a book.

    That said, Perry abandoning his responsibilities to go off and look for his wife doesn’t sound good to me. But then I don’t like the sort of character who abandons his responsibilities to chase emotions anyway so it may not be a good fit for me. Or the blurb could just be wrong. That happens.

  22. Much as I admire you, John (and you know I do), you are a vile blasphemer wrong about TLOTR. I’ve often said “Of course the book was better than the movie. Books are better than movies.” And in general, that’s true. Perhaps it’s true for me because my imagination is fertile ground for the seeds of imagery planted by the author of a book, and the movies shot in Hollywood can’t begin to measure up to the ones in my head.

    There’s an obvious exception, however. Blade Runner is not only better than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—it’s a better movie than DADES is a book. The book is tedious, pointless, and devoid of sympathetic characters; in the movie, most of the characters are sympathetic to one degree or another (Dr. Tyrell is the only exception I can think of off the top of my head). It abounds with exquisite tragedy, deeply felt emotion, and great acting. The book may be a Great Work of Our Beloved Genre, but frankly I found it dull and depressing.

    But then I finally saw Cowboys and Aliens and quite liked it. Harrison Ford is hard to hate at first (we’re so used to seeing him as a good guy), but he sells his total-scumbag role…just in time for a very believable turn. It’s important to expect a western with aliens, not a science fiction movie with cowboys, but that done, it’s great fun. Let that affect your judgment of my taste as it will.

  23. There are a lot of options for the story credit – I wonder which it will be?:
    Based on a book by…
    Based on a story by…
    Based on characters by…
    Based on an idea by…
    Based on a shoelace that once belonged to…

    John do you know this yet or is it decided once the script is finished and they can assess how much of your original work is left? Perry abandoning his unit would seem to eliminate the “based on a book” option.

    Interesting the comments about OMW being “serious” – it was the first Scalzi I read and I found it extremely amusing in many places, primarily from the characterisations. The other books such as Android’s Dream and Agent To The Stars I found almost irritatingly wacky. Beautifully produced irritating wackiness, mind you, but still.

  24. Awww, Xopher, that’s telling! But yes, you haven’t yet seen Stardust go out immediately and do so. A very good case of using the film medium to tell a fantastic story based on a good book.

  25. Cases where the movies were arguably better than the books:

    The Iron Giant is a nifty, very well done animated film; I found the book on which it’s (rather loosely) based impenetrable and dull. I’d also say much the same of the moderately obscure Disney film Candleshoe. The film version is one of Jodie Foster’s very first movie outings, alongside Helen Hayes and David Niven, and is a minor classic among kids’-treasure-hunt films; the book by Michael Innes is a mystery written for adults, and I found it darned near unreadable.

    I also liked the animated Secret of N.I.M.H. more than I did the book (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H., though it should again be noted that the adaptation was very liberal.

    I’d call The Princess Bride a split-the-difference case; the book and the movie each have their merits. I came to the book first and will always like it best, but I don’t think there’s any way Goldman could have brought the book’s Morgenstern meta-narrative into the film. LIkewise, in a much older vein, there’s a classic comedy Western called The Hallelujah Trail, in which the book and the movie go in slightly different directions with the same material, both very successfully. (The book is by Bill Gulick; the film stars Burt Lancaster and a cast of legends. Both are well worth seeking out.)

  26. I have yet another slightly different take on _The Princess Bride_. I think that the movie is as amazing as it is because Goldman, having both vast experience as a screenwriter and intimate knowledge of the source material, was uniquely qualified to distill the book down to its essence. He keeps everything that works in filmed format, and not a bit more. As a result, it’s a completely different experience, almost minimalist compared to the richness of the book.

    This is something that Peter Jackson was not completely successful at with “Lord of the Rings”. And everyone who has attempted to adapt “Dune” has failed utterly.

  27. Xopher: Robert De Niro as a pirate drag queen. How can you do better than that?

    I must confess I found that to be a queer plot turn. What’s really sad is I was far more interested in the ship that sailed through the sky harvesting lightning than I was in the two main characters. Really? Do we have to watch them? What’s De Niro doing in his flying ship?

    Then again, I thought “Riders of the Storm” was awesome for having a B29 that never landed.

    As to LOTR, I thought the movie was as good as the book, for the most part. The books were longer and more detailed, but I don’t recall having a problem with Tolkein’s narration. I do recall the change they made to Faramir’s character and… ooooh… so mad…. oOOOooohhhh…. rraarrgghh!!!! hulk smash!!!!

  28. Speaking of Goldman, I thought the movie version of “Solider in the Rain” captured the heart and emotion of the story at least as well, if not better than, Goldman’s novel. According to IMDb, Goldman did not write the screenplay for the movie. However, the screenplay was written by an excellent screenwriter – Blake Edwards.

  29. I would argue that the movie “Fletch” is better than the John D. Mac Donald book on which it was based. Granted, I finally got around to reading the book years after I’d seen the movie (multiple times). They kept most of the major plot elements of the book intact, but they pretty much allowed Chevy Chase to ad-lib at will, and I found the movie much funnier than the book as a result.

    One of the worst book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever had the misfortune to see was “Relic”, supposedly based on the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child book of the same name. I say “supposedly” because they literally omitted the central character from the book, who held all the disparate plot elements together. Without the central character, the movie was just another B-movie horror flick. I couldn’t even finish watching the movie, it was so bad. In contrast, I stayed up until 3 am to finish the novel, it was so good. Preston/Child are probably my two favorite authors.

  30. Speaking of William Goldman’s screenplays from his own books: Marathon Man (directed by John Schlesinger) is distinctly better than the novel.

    (My daughters have seen our Princess Bride DVD several times, but I have to get them to read the book – I have an early mass-market paperback with the author’s interjections in red ink rather than italics.)

  31. Dang. I even previewed it. That should be “Soldier in the Rain”.
    Sorry to deteriorate into bad adaptions, but “Starship Troopers” was one of the biggest disappointments I have ever experienced in that regard. Talk about missing the point! And where were those cool suits the troopers had? And, and, and, … oy vey.

  32. If we’re going to start mentioning book-to-film adaptations that totally pooed the screwch, one of the more recent genre examples has to be The Seeker, which was theoretically supposed to be based on Susan Cooper’s children’s novel The Dark Is Rising. As a kids’ fantasy movie, it was marginally competent at times, but as an adaptation of the book? Had they changed the names of the principal characters, you would never have known the book and movie were even connected.

  33. Patrick Stewart as John Perry. William Shatner as the annoying gasbag who dies before he can be rebodied.

  34. Just curious on the adaptation thing. Is not Lord of The Rings, the movies, closer to the source novels than an adaptation. If that worked why not make Old Mans War closer to the book(s) than making an adaptation. The synopsis as people already mentioned sounds worrisome.

  35. John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was a great adaption of the book. Hammetts Thin man was also really good. LOTR? I don’t think so. I read the book every 5-6 years. I can’t say I could sit thru the movies every 5-6 years.

  36. That LOTR post is from a couple years before I began reading you (“Being Poor” I think; I remember you then had what is still my favorite look for the site, with a picture of young Athena, maybe in B/W).

    Anyway, I enjoyed it and hadn’t read it before so thanks for the link.

  37. @Phil Royce

    Try tracking down the Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles animated series. It is a much better adaptation of the movie, the episodic format really playing up the grinding nature of the campaigns (even while providing a snappy 30 minute plot for that week) across a series of planets with the aliens and the powersuits neglected in the movie. Really the only downside I felt the series had compared to the book was that it slightly waters down the issues to be suitable for a younger audience and neglects the political aspects.

  38. Completely different genre, but my one nomination for a book/movie combination where they were both of equal high quality would be “Lonesome Dove.” I’ve both read the book and watched the film numerous times, and I have never found anything I would have wished to be improved in either version. I’d count each as being as close to flawless for its medium as they could be.

    All the sequels and prequels, however, don’t come close to stacking up to the original in either format.

  39. As near as I can tell, “Starship Troopers” the movie is about as one-dimensional as “Starship Troopers” the novel. The only thing really missing from the movies was the powered armor suits, which, had no bearing on the (missing) plot.

    I don’t understand what book fans are complaining about. The movie characters got white-ified, but that’s par of the course of any hollywood movie.

    The book is nothing more than a polemic against SANE calling for restrictions on nuclear testing and Heinlein took the communist threat of the late 50’s and turned them into alien bugs that could only be defeated with nukes that turned planets to glass. The moral of the story being: we need nukes or the bugs will overrun us. (OK, the nukes weren’t as common in the movie as they were in the novel, so that was missing too.) Three years after writing “Starship Troopers”, Heinlein told a SF convention that there was a 90% chance of nuclear war, that the US would be wiped out, and that everyone should build a bomb shelter, stock up on unregistered weapons, and die a glorious death.

    I thought that level of insane jingoism was perfectly presented in the movie.

  40. Old Man War:


    As for “Old Man’s War”, it’s really a love story with a military backdrop to throw some action and suspense at the reader, and some Sci-Fi gadgets to wow the reader. The three-act play of the story centers around Perry’s love for his wife.

    The book starts with the “out of whack” event: John’s wife Kathy dies. Act I (introduce the problem) has John visit his wife’s grave and say goodbye. He enlists and goes off on an adventure. Person: John. Place: Earth. Problem:Wife died. Act II (try to solve the problem and fail) has John meet Jane, who is a military clone of his wife. John tries to get to know Jane. John fails horribly. (Jane practically tries to kill John when he first tries to speak to her). Act III (try to solve the problem and succeed) has John try to get to know Jane, and Jane finally talks with John. The story ends with Jane sending John a postcard saying, in effect, lets live happily ever after if we survive the military.

    There’s a parallel three-act play with the miliary stuff,too. Act 1 (problem) would be find out the entire universe is apparently trying to kill all humans and eat them. Act 2 (try and fail) ends with the entire human fleet being wiped out except for a few individuals. Act 3 (try and succeed) has John train with the special forces guys and beat the aliens.

    The problem, from a story telling point of view, is the three-act play of the military stuff isn’t personal to John Perry. The “CDF” goes through the three-act play. John is kind of along for the ride as an individual.

    The other problem I have with the military stuff in “Old Man’s War” is that it seems stuck in Second Generation “close and destroy” warfare, WW1 approach to war. (Sure, there’s the special forces sneak attack at the end, but that was because that was their only option left at that point) “Starship Troopers” did the same thing, so not surprising that “Old Man’s War” did too. And the problem with *that* is that without the love story plot (i.e. Starship Troopers) the story is a futuristic plot based on outdated rules of war. War just doesn’t work that way.

    The question about the love story will be whether or not John’s falling in love with Jane will work as honoring his wife Kathy or come across as a little creepy. Cause… you know… she looks like his wife, but she has none of her memories and is actually, emotionally speaking, a child, on par with a blade runner replicant.

    It will be interesting to see which plot(s) (if any) end up in the movie and how they translate to the screen.

  41. I have an opinion (everyone has one) about the way Variety, and Hollywood in general, tends to treat stuff. They don’t REALLY bother to do research at all. They’re very lucky if they even spell “Scalzi” correctly.

    For instance, this is a (mock) Variety summary of a Halo movie:

    Halo is the story of a space marine, John 3:16, nicknamed Mister Chef by his girlfriend Courtney who gives him battle advice via holographic telephone. Steven Seagal is expected to portray the lead.

    You know this is true. Search your feelings.

  42. foomf, then there’s the famous plot summary “A young woman goes to a foreign country, kills the first person she meets there, then gangs up with a group of misfits to kill again.”

  43. Xopher:

    “Perhaps it’s true for me because my imagination is fertile ground for the seeds of imagery planted by the author of a book, and the movies shot in Hollywood can’t begin to measure up to the ones in my head.”

    Imagination elitist*.

    *stipulating, of course, my immediate agreement with your point

  44. Rewrites aren’t a bad thing. It’s what pre-production is about, pretty much. Sometimes you’ll have half a dozen rewrites before the project moves on. Some of the writers involved may never even get a mention in the credits. (And if the rights lapse in the course of the process, yay, you get to sell them again.)

  45. So, what role will John Scalzi, or his family have in the movie? David Brin wrote that he was disappointed that he did not even appear in a crowd scene when his novel was turned into a book.
    I hope you get a line.

  46. @Xopher Halftongue
    I was about to make simular comments. Blade Runner is leaps and bounds better than “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. In fact I was so turned off on PK Dick after I read the book that I never read anything else he wrote. The title of the book is WAY better though.

  47. @Greg
    I think you missed one of Heinlein main points in the book, Starship Troopers. You have to serve your country/planet before you get your franchise (right to vote). He believed that freedom isn’t free and defending freedom gave you the proper perspective to make informed decisions in voting. I believe that is far from one dimensional.

  48. Interesting, if the description is to be take at face value (but it’s a two-line synopsis in Variety, so…. yeah). I think it’s a very good choice to focus on the love story aspect. Of all the plot lines in the book, that’s the one that’s easiest to sell to a movie audience. Which is not a knock on movie audiences, its a comment on the medium. Just focusing on the action sequences would make it a rote action piece. Going into detail on the alien races and politics is interesting and intelligent, but doesn’t move well enough to maintain the momentum for a 90-120 minute movie. It also takes some effort to explain to the audience what’s going on to the point that they care. But the love story, that’s something people understand. It has a clever hook (that Jane isn’t really his wife), and it gives the protagonist a ready to go motivation to drive the action. This has the potential to be a very engaging adaptation.


    “I don’t understand what book fans are complaining about. The movie characters got white-
    ified, but that’s par of the course of any hollywood movie.”

    Why is that not enough?

    Anyway, setting aside that one should not be surprised that a proud WWII vet writing military fiction in the ’50s and ’60s might have a jingoistic streak, yours is not the only possible interpretation of Starship Troopers. Or even a particularly popular one. As should be plainly evident to you, by the way you yourself feel a borderline incessant need to provide your interpretation.

    Let me give you some other interpretations of why some feel the the film was a bad adaptation. There are those who ostensibly agree with you on Heinlein’s pro-military views, and wonder why Verhoeven made a movie that is so contemptuous of such views. There are those who consider the novel to be more meditative on the roles of duty and service in a nominally democratic society, and wonder why Verhoeven turned that into a sci-fi action fest that used those ideas to fill time between set pieces. There are those who just think that the power armor was the only good part of the book, and wonder what Verhoeven thought the point was of making a movie without it. and then there are those like me, who just plain think the movie is a mess, filled with characters it’s hard to identify (let alone identify with), events that appear to occur for no more reason than to allow Verhoeven to cram more gore and tits into the running time, and a level of satire that makes the satirical aspects of Robocop seem subtle by comparison.

  49. Other Bill: Imagination elitist

    Guilty. I think it’s better to have a vivid imagination, and fot that reason prefer as friends people who prefer books to movies, much as I love movies.

    Elgion: In fact I was so turned off on PK Dick after I read the book that I never read anything else he wrote.

    Yeah, me too, but we know we’re foolish, right? I (at least) have an uncanny knack for picking up a new author’s worst or least accessible work first. My first experience with Dick was actually The Zap Gun, which may have some deeper meaning but struck me as barfulous at the time. My first Russ (an author I’ve come to love) was And Chaos Died, which is masterful (or mistressful) but difficult (stream-of-conciousness from the POV of an uncontrolled telepath).

  50. @Greg. “Close and Destroy” warfare is not so unusual when you stop to think that “all” polities since the dawn of time can ill afford to send more than the absolute minimum in treasure and lives to get the job done. Neutron bombs are okay at ~ and Drones are good at ~ but what’s better at scraping colonists off a rock than a relatively starvation proof soldier with an MP? They’re cheap and cunning and the CDF can hide the savage reality that they die like flies with laughable ease. They are a world apart in nearly every sense of the phrase and I only hope that the writers realize that it’s more like Jane to desert than our old man.

    Hey John. I am soo glad that OMW is working out as a feature film! Thank goodness you’re going to get paid “and” make a movie before your consciousness is transferred. You go, dog!

  51. Variety was just sold this past week, and has been in a precarious state for a long time – various potential buyers came and went, and the price offered (and ultimately accepted) kept going down. Reporting staff who are demoralized, as is usually the case under such circumstances, are not likely to care much about accuracy.

  52. <rant>
    Doc Rocketscience puts a finger on the bit that bothers me so often in this sort of discussion:

    Why is the default Hollywood approach to reduce a complex, multi-faceted story to the simplest, stripped-down morality tale? Is Hollywood even slightly correct in appraising the ability of a target audience to comprehend no plot more complicated than boy-meets-girl or one of the six other standards? (If they are correct in their assessment, then Dhog help us all.)

    I can certainly appreciate that a story which is “ported” from print to film almost certainly will drop a great deal of verbosity, if for no other reason that theatergoers prefer (on average) their entertainment doled out in chunks no larger than a couple hours. Nonetheless, if one bothers to acquire rights to a novel and intends it to adapt it to the screen, would one not wish to retain those elements of the book which made it distinct from any other work in the genre?

    Ahem. Notwithstanding the above, any news is good news, and I shall keeped my tendrils crossed and continue to hope for the best of all possible illities for OMW.

  53. Elgion: I think you missed one of Heinlein main points in the book, Starship Troopers. You have to serve your country/planet before you get your franchise (right to vote). He believed that freedom isn’t free and defending freedom gave you the proper perspective to make informed decisions in voting. I believe that is far from one dimensional.

    It is one dimensional because it isn’t true. We do NOT live in a world where EVERYONE HAS TO SERVE in order for EVERYONE TO BE FREE. That’s Heinlein’s worldview. It fascist propaganda. It is UNTRUE. It is bullshit.

    If it were true, then America and Canada and Western Europe should have been overrun by… somebody. Because not everyone SERVES in all those countries. And yet those countries are all free.

    Heinlein starts with a bullshit premise, makes a bullshit argument, and ends up with a bullshit conclusion.

    It is no less bullshit than the idea that only land owners have any true stake in the course of the nation, and therefore only land owners should vote. That was a bullshit idea that was forwarded by… wait for it… landowners.

    It’s fucking hilarious how ever since we eradicated the stupid, bullshit notion that was the divine right of kings, that we keep allowing it to be replaced by equally bullshit ideas. Divine right of kings (Monarchy). Divine right of land owners (Aristrocracy). Divine right of whites (Apartheid). Divine right of MEN(patriarchy). Divine right of the John Galts of the world (plutocracy). Divine right of THOSE WHO SERVE (fascism). Divine right of blah blah blah.

    Every time one of these bullshit “divine right” conversations come up, some asshole tries to convince everyone else that the world will fall apart if everyone were allowed a say in their government, and therefore tries to justify that who has a say in the government should be limited to… wait for it… them.

    Me, I’m a firm believer in democracy. I think pretty much everyone should have a say in the government that rules them. I think that even the people I totally disagree with should be able to vote. The fact that people fucking defend the fascist bullshit in Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” is just as ugly as people defending Romney suggesting that only people who pay federal taxes are real contributers to the country. One is fascism, the other is an attempt to push us closer to a Plutocracy.

    And neither one is supporting the idea of democracy.

    If Romney gets elected and the Koch Brothers get to rule this country through their bought-and-paid-for presidential puppet, it will be because people bought into this Divine Right bullshit and voted away their own democracy. And we will get exactly the horror of a government that we deserve.

    And that would be no different than if people bought into Heinlein’s bullshit that only people who serve should be able to vote and hold office, and voted away our own democracy in exchange for the horror that is Fascism. The divine right of the military.

    Doc: There are those who ostensibly agree with you on Heinlein’s pro-military views, and wonder why Verhoeven made a movie that is so contemptuous of such views.

    See above.

    Verhoeven grew up under the Nazis and saw bombs exploding, buildings collapsing, the whole sky turning red because the city was on fire. So, I think he has some direct experience of what fascism looks like.

    Note that what I’m saying is in no way the same as saying “we don’t need a military”. We absolutely do need a military. But I refuse to accept the divine right of military rule that Heinlein tries to propagandize in “Starship Troopers”. I refuse to accept the slightest suggestion that only the miltary is truly fit to vote and rule. It’s bullshit no different than Ayn Rand’s propaganda trying to say only rich people have the best interest of the state at heart and everyone else is a moocher. The divine right of rich people is no less bullshit than the divine right of military rule.

    rich: “Close and Destroy” warfare is not so unusual when you stop to think that “all” polities since the dawn of time

    Close and Destroy is second generation warfare. We’re in fourth generation. “Starship Troopers” and “Old Man’s War” are re-fighting the last war (WW2), or the war before that. Lucas showed WW2 footage of B17 bombers fighting off Nazi fighter planes and said that’s what he wanted for the Milenium Falcon fighting off Tie Fighters. It’s quite common to have ships in space move about as if they were in an atmosphere, because that’s what the movie makers understand.

    Mutually assured destruction is actually a massively powerful disincentive of war. Instead of submarines lurking about the ocean with nukes to assure retribution for anyone who attacks, every race with the capability would put ships out in deep, deep space, stack them full of super nukes with super intelligent robots to deliver them, and if their home planet is destroyed, they warp above every planet belonging to race that started the war, and they end the war.

    The idea of interstellar wars looking like WW1 trench warfare is silly. But that’s what you need if you think the idea of “territory” makes any sense in the vast reaches of space. There’s just too much empty out there to create any sort of real boundary. There can be no front lines, any attempts to create such a thing would end up the maginot line. WW2 gave a better idea of what war will look like. There are no boundaries. Waves of bombers go over the boundaries, and then its a matter of military defenses trying to stop them. But then throw in tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of nuclear warheads, thrown in MIRVs, and the only defense is the laughable idea of SDI. Sure, SDI might be a good idea if you want to stop a single nuke from someplace like North Korea. But It won’t stop all the nukes from a mutually-assured-destruction counterstrike. All it takes is a few to get through out of tens of thousands and its all over.

    You can only close and destroy if you can fix/envelop the enemy, i.e. if the possible enemy moves are finite enough that you can contain them to be destroyed. You can NOT close and destroy in space, especially in interstellar war. It is absurd.

  54. Fantastic news, that the OMW film project is alive & making progress!
    I hope they keep the humor in. The marketing parody is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read – everyone I’ve recommended the book to agrees. (IMO, the farting/bathroom humor is not the funniest part, but to each his own.)
    About LOTR: I have never seen the movies & must agree with Xopher here: No movie could equal what I see in my mind’s eye, and after 18 times to Mordor & back, my mind’s eye can see pretty much. It’s one of my quirks, that I wholly enjoy the archaic prose; I would disagree with John’s 2003 assessment, because I think the quaintness of the text suits the story very well. But I was always better at math than literature in school, so who am I to say?
    But also about LOTR: Tolkien wrote many versions of many (most?) of his stories, especially the myths. I understand he felt this paralleled reality, where multiple versions of myths come down to us, reflecting how the stories change, grow, and twist over time. There isn’t just one “right” version – they all have value.
    In a way, this is similar to adapting a book for the screen: The adapted story might be different, but as long as it has integrity within itself, it’ll be great art & entertainment. Win!

  55. Xopher: OMG, someone besides me liked Cowboys & Aliens? (I nominated it for Yuletide this year.)

    Movie > Book: Yojimbo > Red Harvest, though the book is also good.

    Movie, book and stage play all equally excellent: To Kill a Mockingbird

  56. There are a number of movies that folks tend to forget were even based on books at all, which implies (though it doesn’t prove) that the books were less memorable. The Bridge on the River Kwai, Planet of the Apes, and Kramer vs. Kramer come to mind.

  57. Greg, I’ll assume I was just unclear. They wonder why he chose Starship Troopers in particular, to use as his source material. Why use something as relatively obscure as one of Heinlein’s juveniles? Why not some original material? Why not borrow the setting and change the names? Was he just trying to be a dick about it? Either way, it ought to be pretty clear why someone would find it a poor adaptation, no?. Hell, I wouldn’t even call it a particularly good deconstruction. Seriously, less subtle than Robocop is an accomplishment, but not a compliment.

    Also, I’m not saying your interpretation is wrong. I’m saying it’s not universal. Pretending to be unaware that other interpretations exist is silly. Also, I’m fairly certain you’re aware of the differences between an authors themes in their books, and their actual beliefs. It’s a fairly common topic here. I mean, do you think that Heinlein was advocating a libertarian/anarchist government of convicts? Or having sex with own ancestors (or pre sex change self)? Or becoming a genetically engineered, hedonistic superspy? Or a free loving magic cannibal hippie?

  58. Christopher Hawley:

    “Nonetheless, if one bothers to acquire rights to a novel and intends it to adapt it to the screen, would one not wish to retain those elements of the book which made it distinct from any other work in the genre?”

    Yes. But also a billion American dollars. And, to do that requires a target audience of everyone. So, they make priority choices. You can kind of see the direction a space age war movie might go here. I’m with Xopher, I think books are better than movies. But, they’re also different than movies. When I go to see a movie of a book I enjoyed, the last thing I expect to see is a line by line realization of the vision in my head as I took in the book. It maintains its distinction as specific story, but a movie is a separate work from its literary source.


    That was, like, a Bond villain monologue, dude. I feel like you’re going to nuke all my books so that I can’t use them anymore. Or, at the very least, dip my favorites in gold.

  59. Doc: They wonder why he chose Starship Troopers in particular, to use as his source material.

    That’s not reason to criticize the movie being unfaithful to the novel. It’s merely arguing that Verheoven should have started with a different novel altogether.

    Was he just trying to be a dick about it?

    By “he”, you mean “Verhoeven”? I think Verheoven did a pretty good job of capturing the fascism inherent in “Starship Troopers”. I’m sure Fox News would have made a different, more friendly-to-the-idea-of-military-rule, spin on things, a more friendly “this would be a good idea” way of presenting the fascism inherent in the novel. But, that would be buying into Heinlein’s propaganda. That would be Fox News cheerleading the country into a stupid war based on a mountain of lies. i.e. it would be bad.

    Either way, it ought to be pretty clear why someone would find it a poor adaptation, no?

    No. It’s not clear at all. The only way I can see someone finding it a poor adaptation is they actually buy into the Heinlein’s idea that military fascism would create a utopia far better than anything any government has ever produced before, that nukes are the only thing between us and the communist bugs.

    Also, I’m fairly certain you’re aware of the differences between an authors themes in their books, and their actual beliefs.

    Dude. Seriously? From Wikipedia, but there are plenty of links to source material to back this up:

    “According to Heinlein, his desire to write Starship Troopers was sparked by the publication of a newspaper advertisement placed by the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy on April 5, 1958 calling for a unilateral suspension of nuclear weapon testing by the United States. In response, Robert and Virginia Heinlein created the small “Patrick Henry League” in an attempt to create support for the U.S. nuclear testing program. During the unsuccessful campaign, Heinlein found himself under attack both from within and outside the science fiction community for his views. Starship Troopers may therefore be viewed as Heinlein both clarifying and defending his military and political views of the time.”

    Or having sex with own ancestors (or pre sex change self)?

    I didn’t say anything about Heinlein’s views about all his other novels or all his other ideas, therefore I would consider this a strawman version of my point.

    Given that Heinlein specifically stated he wrote “Starship Troopers” in response to people calling for a suspension of nuclear testing, given that he said he wrote “Starship Troopers” to clarify and defend his military and political points of view, I see no logical grounds whatsoever for you objecting to this particular point. So, once again, yes, you’re damn right, I think the novel reflects Heinlein’s military and political views, cause that’s what Heinlein himself said about the novel.

  60. That’s not reason to criticize the movie being unfaithful to the novel.

    Yes, it is. If you tale a source material, and completely invert its premise, then that’s not an adaptation. That’s a deconstruction. Which is inherently unfaithful.

    By “he”, you mean “Verhoeven”?

    What other “he” would I be talking about?

    I’m sure Fox News…

    Later on you’re going to say something about strawmen. I’d like you to remember this bit when you get there.

    No. It’s not clear at all.


    Alrighty, I give up then. You clearly have a unique view on the matter.

    …that’s what Heinlein himself said about the novel.

    Fair enough. Though I continue to disagree with you interpretations of the consequences of those beliefs.

  61. This is good news.

    And regarding the film “Starship Trooper,” yeah, I also saw it as a parody of the book. Sure, many elements of the book were retained in the more traditional Hollywood sense, but what was not usual was the original author’s theme/thesis as seen through a sarcastic lense. The use of theatrics was obvious and left no doubt of the director’s opinion of Heinlein’s message.

  62. Doc RocketScience: “If you tale a source material, and completely invert its premise, then that’s not an adaptation. That’s a deconstruction. Which is inherently unfaithful.”

    What exactly do you think the premise of “Starship Troopers” the novel is?

    I’ve been going by what Heinlein said outside the novel and inside the novel through his characters. Outside the novel, Heinlein specifically said he wrote the novel in response to people calling for a suspension of nuclear testing and to explain his military and political views. Inside the novel, his military and political views are expressed quite clearly by his mouthpiece character Mr. Dubois and other instructors in “History and Moral Philosophy”.

    There are 14 chapters in “Starship Troopers” the novel. Three of those chapters (2, 6, 12) are little more than polemic info-dumps of Heinleins military and political views. One-fifth of the book is Heinlein’s mouthpiece characters giving us Heinlein’s political and military views.

    And what do these mouthpieces tell us?

    That democracy inevitably fails: (page 143) “Mr. Dubois was talking about the disorders that preceded the breakup of the North American republic, back in the XXth century. … The Terror had not been just in North America- Russia and the British Isles had it, too, as well as other places. But it reached its peak in North America shortly before things went to pieces.”

    That his system of government is the “greatest” than anytihng before it in every measurable way: (page 232) “Our system works quite well… personal freedom for all is greatest in history, laws are few, taxes are low, living standards are as high as productivity permits, crime is at its lowest ebb.”

    And that his system of government is military rule: (page 233) “Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage.”

    I don’t know what you think the premise is, but that is what I say is the premise of the novel. And I’m basing that off of the actual text IN the novel. If you think the premise of the novel is something else, by all means, be specific in what you think the premise of the novel is and what source you’re using to decide that’s the premise.

    *facepalm* Alrighty, I give up then. You clearly have a unique view on the matter.

    Facepalm all you want. My “unique” (unique as in booga booga, no one else could possibly have this view) view on the matter comes from quoting the book.

  63. The movie of Starship Troopers started as a movie script called “Bug Hunt on Antares 9”. Why Starship Troopers was painted over it is a question perhaps best addressed to those in the production team; I haven’t seen any meaningful discussion of this, and suspect it has to do with the Bugs of Antares 9 being conflated with the hives of Starship Troopers in some Hollywood drone’s mind. Verhoeven has stated that he only read the first chapter of Starship Troopers and put (or cast) it aside, calling it a “coming of age story”, while he wanted to make an anti-fascism film (having grown up under fascism in the 1930s and 1940s, he’s got a grievance he wanted to express.)

    None of this has much to do with OMW, book or film, or Felix vs The Ants, either.

    Felix has landed safely, however.

  64. If that’s true, htom, Verhoeven doesn’t deserve our patronage ever again for any movie he may choose to make. The same is true of whatever scumbags made the move I, Robot, which not only has nothing in common with the book other than the title and the names of some of the characters, but goes exactly against the entire point of it…and of all Asimov’s robot stories.

  65. Btw, I also think Heinlein was making a fascist “the natural state of society is war” argument. If you have to serve in battle in order to vote, that’s pretty much like saying you need a war in every generation, or that it’s fine for people in a non-war generation to be disenfranchised; it’s exactly saying that pacifists should have absolutely no input into the running of society.

    Heinlein was a pretty good writer, but he was not at all a good man.

  66. None of that describes the premise of the movie. Verhoeven’s premise is that all those things that Heinlein said were good are bad. That’s pretty much the opposite premise. Verhoeven followed the basic plot, hit most of the same themes, but presented it all for ridicule, not emulation. That’s not faithful, that’s a big ol’ “Fuck you!” Why is that so hard to grasp? Why are you also having trouble acknowledging that other people, many (but by no means all) of whom actually like Heinlein and/or Starship Troopers, actually, you know, noticed Verhoeven’s finger? Or even that they noticed all the other problems with this shit-tastic movie from a borderline hack director?

  67. I hope you realize, Doc, that I was a) denouncing the use of a book’s title without reference (or with only minimal reference) to its content as a moviemaking practice and b) giving my opinion of Heinlein. I don’t have an opinion about the politics of the movie that resulted from Verhoeven’s lack of ethics.

    For me the really egregious Heinlein propaganda is The Puppet Masters. But a discussion of that ranges so far afield that that portion of the map is marked “Here There Be Mallyts.”

  68. Sorry, xopher, I was actually responding to Greg. Didn’t even see your post till after I’d posted mine. My bad.

  69. Xopher, you bring up a good point, though: is it unethical to radically change the tone, premise, and/or message of the source material when adapting it to a new medium? How much can you change it before it becomes unethical? Or, once the rights are purchased, does anything go?

  70. To totally go back to what people were talking about upthread, the one movie that was absolutely, hands-down, 100% better than the book was “Last of the Mohicans.” I dare you to prove me wrong.

  71. Doc: None of that describes the premise of the movie. ….

    So, again, I will ask you: What specifically do you think is the premise of the novel?

    The novel.

    The book.

    The thing with white pages and text formed in black ink.

    you know, the novel.

    You seem quite adamant about… something, but thus far, you’ve refused to reveal the slightest bit of what you actually think the premise is. ANd you’ve avoided my requests to get specific. Not to mention that your:

    *facepalm* Alrighty, I give up then. You clearly have a unique view on the matter.

    seems to imply that you know the premise of the novel with absolute certainty and accuracy (though what that premise is yet remains a mystery), and that whatever the fuck I think the premise of the novel is, it is not only wrong, but so wrong that, literally, I am the only person in the world who would think this is the premise of the novel. I have a unique view that couldn’t possibly be held by another person on the planet.

    In response, I told you what I thought the premise of the novel was. And I gave the quotes from the book that were my direct sources for that premise. I then said if you think this was NOT the premise, then by all means, tell me what you think it is. You didn’t respond to that post in any direct sense at all.

    So, again, I will ask you: What specifically do you think is the premise of the novel?

    Verhoeven followed the basic plot, hit most of the same themes, but presented it all for ridicule, not emulation.

    What were these themes you speak of? What was the underlying premise of the novel that you think got the big Fuck You from Verhoeven?

    Is the novel’s premise so complex that you can’t even answer the question? Is it hard to grasp, like zen’s satori? Would it take a doctoral thesis and years of study to understand the wisdom imparted in “Starship Troopers” the novel?

    The thing I presented as the premise of the novel here, the bit where I quoted three chunks of the actual novel text from the novel, are you saying that’s NOT the premise of the novel? That I got it completely wrong? If so, I would be greatly interested in hearing what you personally think is the premise of the novel, and the part of the book from which you got that premise.

    So, again, I will ask you: What specifically do you think is the premise of the novel?

  72. I can understand why, when this discussion went off-topic, it veered toward Starship Troopers – a book OMW has been compared to since publication. I have a few comments that I think are salient:

    Paul Verhoeven made Soldier of Orange (starring Rutger Hauer); it’s unfair to call him a “borderline hack director.” In any case, his opportunities to direct have dwindled, at least with respect to big-budget Hollywood movies.

    Heinlein’s goal (at least from the 1950s onward) was to be provocative, and he certainly succeeded at that. Here we are, talking about a novel more than 50 years old that’s never been out of print; how many of those have there been?

    One last thing: The entire system is defended by the History and Moral Philosophy instructor, Mr. Dubois, as being based on a “scientifically verifiable theory of morals” (chapter 8) and therefore is right by definition. This is the greatest single example of so-called authorial “hand-waving” I’ve ever heard of.

  73. Doc: is it unethical to radically change the … premise…?

    Too bad we don’t yet know what that premise actually is.

    I know I’m about to quote the actual text of the novel, but clearly this isn’t the actual premise of the novel. What I will say however is that if the premise of some hypothetical novel were this:

    (page 235) “We ensure that all who wield [sovereign franchise] accept the ultimate in social responsibility—we require each person who wishes to exert control over the state to wager his own life—and lose it, if need be—to save the life of the state.”

    can only inevitably lead to this:

    (page 232) “personal freedom for all is greatest in history, laws are few, taxes are low, living standards are as high as productivity permits, crime is at its lowest ebb.”

    Then the short of it is that this hypothetical novel is advocating an insane fantasy: “military fascism leads to utopia”.

    In this hypothetical case, the charge that it would be “unethical” to “radically change” this novel when converting it into a movie, to me at least, gets morally eclipsed by the greater ethical demand that, you know, this hypothetical novel is advocating a dangerous and insane fantasy that military fascism leads to utopia.

    The scales of justice and ethics would have on one side (1) a polemic propaganda piece advocating the notion that military fascism leads to utopia (and democracy leads to madness) and on the other side (2) a movie maker who skewered this propaganda and showed it for what it is.

    And perhaps some people’s moral and ethical scales would say, yes, in fact, it is morally worse to change the premise of a novel when converting it into a movie than it is to write a propaganda piece that advocates the idea that military fascism will lead to utopia.

    My ethical scales don’t point in that direction though. But perhaps, I am unique.

  74. *eyeroll* I don’t know why I’m indulging you, but here, in 5 words or less, is the premise of Robert A Heinlein’s Starship Troopers: Military is good, mmk?

    And just for fun, here, in 5 words or less, is the premise of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers: Fascism is bad, mmk?

    incidentally, I don’t recall ever disagreeing with you about Heinlein’s premise. (I checked. I didn’t.) I didn’t agree about Heinlein’s personal beliefs, you set me straight, no blood, no foul. But the premise in pretty fucking clear. I’d say Verhoeven’s is pretty fucking clear, too, but it does get a bit obscured under rubber bug bits and rather muddled ending. But it’s not so muddled as to be confused for Heinlein’s. Starship Troopers: The Book is straight forward pro-military. Starship Troopers: The Movie is satirically anti-fascism. (Starship Troopers: the Flamethrower was sadly recalled after a tragic incident involving a cat. The kids loved it, though.) The difference between the two doesn’t really scream “faithful adaptation” to me. Also, I stand by my use of the word “invert” (as in, “invert the premise”).

    Care to tell me why you’re so hung up on me telling you what the premise is, when I never disagreed with your description? What is it you’re hoping to catch me at?

  75. gottacook: Verhoeven also directed Basic Instinct, Total Recall, and Showgirls, while Francis Ford Coppola directed The Godfather: Part III and Spielberg directed Jurassic Park II. I maintain “borderline hack” applies.

    Greg: Really? Is that your defense of the movie? Interesting. Too bad it’s still a shit movie.

  76. Doc, certainly the movie people are within their legal rights, depending on the contract, to make a movie about a little girl whose paper dolls come to life and kill her family, and if they’ve bought the rights to Old Man’s War they can say it’s “based on” it and use the title. But, as Mr. Nixon so insincerely said, it would be WRONG. So yeah, I think what Verhoeven did with ST was unethical. If he’d followed the book fairly closely but played every bit of it for laughs, maybe that would be better, but I still think it’s on the wrong side of the line.

    And the fact that an anti-fascist movie is a good thing, while a pro-fascist book (which is what that book is; I’m not sure why you’re euphemizing with ‘pro-military’) is a bad thing doesn’t really matter to the ethics. I’m not a believer in the end justifying the means.

  77. I don’t think it is a euphemism, I think it’s an apt description. I’m also willing to accept that that is a debatable point, but I’d rather not have my intellectual integrity impugned by the suggestion that I am deliberately euphemizing, thank you very much. And while the Starship Troopers movie-vs-book discussion is skirting the limits of the topic, Heinlein’s politics is definitely beyond the pale.

    That goes for you, too, Greg.

  78. A report in an American Cinematographer article states that the Heinlein novel was optioned well into the pre-production period of the film, which had a working title of Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine; most of the writing team reportedly were unaware of the novel at the time. According to the DVD commentary, Paul Verhoeven never finished reading the novel, claiming he read through the first few chapters and became both “bored and depressed.”[9]

    I think that Verhoeven innocently signed on to do a different film than we expected from the title, and he delivered the film he wanted to make. The blame for our disappointment should be aimed at the Hollywood numbskulls who compounded the three films (novel, bughunt, anti-fascism.)

  79. @Xopher, October 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm said:

    “If you have to serve in battle in order to vote, that’s pretty much like saying you need a war in every generation, or that it’s fine for people in a non-war generation to be disenfranchised; it’s exactly saying that pacifists should have absolutely no input into the running of society.”

    I seem to recall that there was a discussion of this point in the book, and it was explained that you didn’t have to go into battle to earn the franchise, you just had to demonstrate the willingness to risk your own life for the common good. This could include hazardous non-military duties, although I can’t remember any specific examples. Whether this was a sop to try to silence critics, I don’t know.

  80. There is nothing unethical about a director totally changing the message, setting, or story of a property that they’ve been contracted to direct. If Verhoeven had turned Starship Troopers into a movie about animated space cats, he would have still have acted ethically as long as he lived up to the terms of his contract with the production company that bought the rights to the book from the Heinlein estate.

    You may question the logic of buying the rights to a property and then completely changing it, something that happens a lot in Hollywood, but ethics don’t enter into it.

  81. Doc: in 5 words or less, is the premise of Robert A Heinlein’s Starship Troopers: Military is good, mmk?

    Well, I would say that’s your problem. I don’t think that’s the premise of the novel AT ALL.

    In June 1957, twenty‐seven prominent citizens concerned with the direct and indirect hazards of nuclear fallout (e.g., strontium 90 found in cow’s milk) met in New York City and formed the Provisional Committee to Stop Nuclear Tests. In the fall, they adopted the name National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, commonly known as SANE, and placed a full‐page advertisement in the New York Times that read: “We Are Facing a Danger Unlike Any Danger That Has Ever Existed.” … The organization’s greatest achievement was the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, halting atmospheric nuclear tests.

    That was the ad that Heinlein saw. That was the ad that Heinlein wrote “Starship Troopers” in OPPOSITION to. Do you see anything in there that says “Military is bad”? I don’t. Maybe there’s something in there that would say “nuclear arms race is bad”, but that’s not the same as “military is bad”.

    This is the problem: when poeple oppose a stupid war, militants strawman them into “WHY DO YOU HATE THE TROOPS?!?!?!” When people opposed the war in Vietnam, militants invented stories about how these no-good peaceniks went to airports just to spit on returning troops. It never happened. But to a militant, any reason to oppose a war is hating the troops and hating your country. People who opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 were accused of supporting Al Queda. It was complete and absolute bullshit. But that’s the worldview of militant nutjobs.

    And Heinlein was a militant nutjob. Three years AFTER writing “Starship Troopers”, Heinlein told people at an SF convention that there was a 90% certainty that there would be a nuclear war, that the US would LOSE, and that people should build bomb shelters, stock up on “unregistered weapons”, and go out in a “blaze of glory” anyway. Heinlein had a bomb shelter, was stocked up on food and water, probably even had some unregistered weapons, and was ready to go all out Rambo.

    And all of this is just looking at the premise from outside the book, looking at what Heinlein said were his reasons for writing the book and looking at how he lived his life.

    Looking at the premise from INSIDE the book, well, did you see those three quotes I cut and pasted from the book? Those are quotes from the mouthpiece character of the book, from Dubois and other instructors of “history and moral philosophy”. Do you really believe that the only thing that those quotes are trying to say is “military is good’? Do you not believe that those quotes are trying to say anything more?

    Because here’s the problem. There are plenty of ways to say “military is good” in a story without turning the story into some bullshit like “Rambo” (the movie, not the book) that glorifies violence and portrays attempts at peace as a “weakness” or as an attempt to betray your own country. Opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2003 does not make one an Al Queda supporter. It doesn’t mean they think “military is bad” or that they hate the troops.

    “Pork Chop Hill”, the 1959 movie managed to say “military is good” without forwarding fascist nonsense and without turning people who want peace into traitors. “Starship Troopers”, the novel, goes way, way, way beyond just saying “military is good” and argues fiercely for military rule, for a fascist state, saying it will inevitably produce the best state possible.

    So, no, “military is good” as the only premise to “Starship Troopers” the novel is not mmmmmk.

    That would be like looking at Bush Jr’s presidency and saying the premise of his presidency was to keep the US safe. Well, maybe Bush really did believe that’s all he was doing. But for anyone to look back at Bush Jr and make a story about him where that was the ONLY premise of the story, that in my opinion would be unethical.

    Maybe Heinlein thought he was ONLY trying to save the US from the Soviet bugs (the bugs in the novel just happen to be communists) by showing the need for nuclear weapons (The power suits worn by Johhny’s platoon each had multiple rockets with each rocket tipped by tactical nuclear weapons. Heinlein shows nuclear weapons being used by the military on a tactical basis as standard procedure.). Maybe that’s all Heinlein really wanteed to do.

    But to look back at his novel today, and to say that is all that the novel is doing, to ignore the fascism rampant throughout the book, to ignore the actual words of Dubois and the other instructors of “history and moral philosophy”, and to say the premise of the novel can only be “military is good” is to overlook far more than I am willing.

  82. @htom: I remember reading Steakley’s Armor in college and remember being very taken by the character of Felix. The dichotomy of Felix just stuck with me. Now, in my latter years, I wonder if it will hold up well to memory’s impression. There’s only one way to find out, I guess.

  83. Greg, I was a returning vet and spat at in the St. Louis airport in 1969. It happened. It was not news worthy. I did not make a fuss. He turned and waddled away immediately; I did not chase after him to give him a thumping. A [redacted] demonstrating that that’s what he was. I’d been warned it might happen. Not a story a paper was interested in, not a cause for arrest, no photos, no witnesses, not someone else, me. Reality sucks, sometimes, and as I dealt with it then, you have to deal with it now. It seems to have been easier for me than it is for you. It really fscking happened. I’m not saying that you were spitting, but some were. Most of them too ashamed to admit it, it seems. Cowards. As they were, so they remain.

  84. gleonguerrero — I’d love to see a trilogy of movies by Peter Jackson derived from Armour; I can’t think of another director who might be able to pull it off.

  85. htom, I’m sorry that happened to you. And just so you know, I’ve never spat on anyone, ever.

    I’ve been digging around, on and off, the last few years, I’ve not found much in regards to reports of American troops actually getting spat on. The myth around it was huge, as if it were organized like Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church picketing funerals of troops.

    Rambo (1985 movie): And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap!

    The myth is there were mobs at every airport anytime troops came home, screaming ‘baby killer’, spitting, and so on, and this was supposed to be the heart of the opposition to the Vietnam war. As far as I have been able to tell, that never happened anywhere. The sort of thing that Rambo said happened to him, never happened to anyone.

    I don’t think the people who opposed the Vietnam war ever organized a “hate in” at the airport for returning troops. I think veterans who returned from the war ended up being a big chunk of the opposition to the war itself.

    But, there are shitheads of every political stripe. I’ll assume it was a shithead who spat on you. Sorry you had to go through that. And I’m sorry my blanket statement said it didn’t happen.


    So was Obama wrong to call the treatment of returning Vietnam soldiers a “National Shame” and a “disgrace that never should have happened?”

    If I didn’t do the link right, I’m sorry, I’m not well practised in linking things. We probably shouldn’t get too much into this though. I don’t know enough about it, and I’m sure this is a tangent John will put a stop too.

  87. Oh, I keep meaning to mention this but get distracted.

    As far as the “ethics” are concerned with regard to buying the rights to a book and inverting the premise of that book, copyright law in America says its a contract issue between the book author who holds the copyright and the movie people. If the author signs away the rights with a “whatever movie you want to make” clause, then there’s no legal recourse.

    In some European countries, copyright law includes a thing called “moral rights”. Moral rights is even more slippery than “fair use”. But basically, it means if the author feels the work is insulted, the author can sue to protect his moral rights to the work. If I remember correctly, moral rights can never be reassigned and they can’t be bought. They only belong to the person who wrote the work in question. Once the writer dies, I think the moral right expires, even if the author’s heirs can get the other rights to the work.

    If Heinlein were alive, and if American copyright law had the concept of moral rights, then Heinlein might be able to sue the people behind “Starship Troopers” the movie on the grounds that the inverted the novel and violated his moral rights. Maybe he could even win.

    But he’s not alive and he can’t do anything about the movie in America, so, there you have it.

    I don’t like moral rights as a legal concept. They seem extremely nebulous as to what they can and cannot be used for, and nebulous law is bad law.

  88. Greg:

    I don’t think that’s the premise of the novel AT ALL.

    no, “military is good” as the only premise to “Starship Troopers” the novel is not mmmmmk.

    Meh. Five words doesn’t leave much room for nuanced detail, but it’s all the effort I was willing to put into a tangent,* and it was sufficient to point out the differences between the book and the movie. Unless you think Heinlein’s version could be summarized a “Fascism is bad”? I may have missed that bit in your posts. Though, given your analysis of how much the book promotes fascism, that’s an odd conclusion to come to about the basic premise. And it still wouldn’t account for the differing tone between the pieces.

    *Yes, insisting that I provide you with a detailed, two-page analysis of the novel, so that you can debate me on the finer points of geo-political positions and the role of the science fiction author in the late 1950s is a tangent. Especially when I never questioned your analysis of the book, only its relation to the movie.

  89. Jim, it’s been years since I read the book, but I believe you are correct. I too recall that there were several possible paths to citizenship (and thus enfranchisement), but military service was considered the most direct and, in the society Heinlein was positing, the most respected. The movie says as much as well, though indirectly, with the line “Service Guarantees Citizenship” being played at the recruiting station.

  90. Doc, the other paths were just as dangerous as being in a war, but without the hope of shooting back. It was implied that the death rate was as high or higher, as well as being respected much less.

  91. Greg, my older brother and his comrades would like to present you with the dry cleaning bills he amassed during the late 1960’s for having the spit (plural; yes, organized groups! calling him a baby killer!) cleaned off his uniforms. Rambo got everything else wrong, but not that.

  92. Doc: Heinlein’s Starship Troopers: Military is good…. Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers: Fascism is bad…. it was sufficient to point out the differences between the book and the movie

    But that difference only exists by cherry picking the minor positive message of the novel and ignoring all the time spent in the novel extoling the virtues of Heinlein’s utopian government, a government that can only be described as fascist.

    Look. Republicans have been beating on “Sesame Street” lately. There is a hilarious clip on Jon Stewart that shows clips from Fox News where the nutjobs over there try to call Sesame Street some form of left wing, communist, indoctrination/brainwashing for children. If you have something like Sesame Street, whose premise is to teach kids to share their toys, and some right winger tries to present that as communist brainwashing, then that’s taking something that is blaming Sesame Street for something it isn’t doing.

    Likewise, say we start with a movie like “Saving Private Ryan”, a movie whose premise was basically to show the sacrifice that American troops made during WW2. And a premise that really could be boiled down to “miliitary=good”. Say someone takes that movie and remakes it showing Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and all the other men in that unit, to be fascist, empirial, conquering pricks. Then I would agree with you wholeheartedly that that would be an entirely unfair rewriting of the story.

    But that doesn’t fly with “Starship Troopers” the novel. Heinlein’s novel has 14 chapters, 3 of which are little more than infodumps telling the reader how great their government is and describing how it works. Thing is, the government Heinlein describes is a fascist government. He doesn’t use the word “fascism” to describe his world, but that’s EXACTLY what it is.

    The movie shows you EXACTLY the government that Heinlein describes. It’s just when you see it in the raw like that, it’s obvious that its a fascist govenrment.

    public floggings. Only military can vote. Only mliitary can hold office. militant jingoism. It’s in the novel. It’s in the movie.

    I’ve looked at the novel pretty thoroughly. I’m not as familiar with the movie. I’ve probably only seen it three or four times, and I’ve never taken notes. But I can’t think of any major component of the government portrayed in the movie that didn’t correspond to something that Heinlein had in the novel.

    the only thing I can remember that stood out as deviating from the novel was that the Dougie Howser character was wearing a Nazi inspired uniform. Heinlein would probably have him wearing shining white armor or something.

    Sure, the little advertisements spliced into the movie don’t exist in the novel directly. But the novel spends a chapter having Johnny talk with a recruiter. And the ads in the movie are no different than the sales pitch that the recruiter sold to Johnny in the novel.

    I can’t think of anything that was in the movie that was a horrendous misrepresentation of Heinlein’s world in the novel.

    It has been a year or so since I’ve seen the movie. So I could be forgetting something. Perhaps you have something specific in the movie that stands out as deviating from the novel?

    Actually, I can think of one major difference. The novel can be quite sexist at times. The movie isn’t. But that would be a point in favor of the movie.

  93. Ron — The treatment of veterans has been a national disgrace of various levels since … General Washington, I suppose, with a few bright lights (WW2’s GI Bill) that mostly show how bad the rest of it is. Not was, is. Far off topic. I don’t chase links in an attempt to persuade people that The Spitting Image is perhaps a confession by omission; pressed, their claim is that the V V A W did not organize spitting on uniformed troops returning to military airfields. The Wikipedia talk page on that article has a bunch of links and discussion.

  94. Tone, Greg, tone. What is the movie trying to say? What is the book trying to say? Are they trying to say the same thing or are they trying to say something different?

    Answers: “Everything I’m presenting here is right and good.” “Everything I’m presenting here is fascist and bad.” Very, very different, and that’s what I’m talking about as inverted premise. It involves a bit more than plot, or even themes. Or are you one of those people who get a nervous eye twitch at the mention of Tom Bombadil?

  95. Doc: Or are you one of those people who get a nervous eye twitch at the mention of Tom Bombadil?

    Nah. It didn’t bother me that he was missing from the movies. The only thing that bothered me about the movies was Faramir was inverted from the novel. In the novel, Faramir knew the ring was both powerful and evil and knew that he would be a sucker to try and take it from Frodo. He knew what it would do to him. He knew it would consume him. Gandalf too knew the ring was powerful and knew that if it took control of Gandalf’s power, then middle earth would be doomed. Galadriel knew the ring would turn her into a monster, “all would love me and despair” and she passed the test and refused to take the ring.

    But Farimir was the only human to refuse the ring. Well, Aragorn did too, but he spent most of the novel refusing his kingly powers as well. Faramir was the only “common” man who had the complete and total opportunity to take the ring, but did not. Faramir was the “show don’t tell” that showed that mankind could save itself from its own weaknesses.

    In the LOTR movie, Faramir, like every other human, wanted the ring as soon as he knew it was within his grasp. It was only until he dragged Frodo to Gondor, saw the destruction the ring brought, saw the ring wraith and the fell beast it rode cause his men to cower and nearly steal Frodo and the ring away, that he finally grokked that to take the ring was to get into some serious shit.

    In the novel, Faramir showed that not all humans lusted for power. In the novel, Faramir was how Tolkein showed that mankind had the ability to save themselves.

    In the movie, Faramir was just as weak as all the other men. In the movies, no man who has the ring within his grasp can refuse it. In the movies, there is no example that shows that mankind can rise above its baser instincts.

    Now, THAT was an inversion from book to movie.

    Tone, Greg, tone

    You’re saying you don’t have a single, specific thing that was inverted from book to movie, and all you can point to is Verhoeven didn’t want to wash Heinlein’s dishes?

    A specific thing might be like how I described how Faramir’s character was inverted from the book to the movie. How it was in the book. How it was different in the movie. And the ramifications.

    And you’re telling me you can’t point to a single specific thing? and at the same time, you’ve called the movie entirely contemptous? That it completely inverts the novel?

    Come on, man. You might as well say the only way you’ll be satisfied is if I want to want to do the dishes. It’s not enough if I do the dishes, its not enough if the job you want done gets done in every measurable way. There’s just some undefinable air about it, nothing specific you know, that allows you to say the dishes weren’t done satisfactory.

    The movie has everything the book has, there is nothing in the movie that isn’t in the book, but the tone is all wrong? the book has a public flogging, the movie has a public flogging. They’re portrayed in exactly the same manner. But tone of the movie flogging is an inversion of the novel flogging?

    You’re killing me, man.

  96. The movie has everything the book has, there is nothing in the movie that isn’t in the book, but the tone is all wrong? the book has a public flogging, the movie has a public flogging. They’re portrayed in exactly the same manner. But tone of the movie flogging is an inversion of the novel flogging?

    YES! That’s exactly it! Nothing more, nothing less. Heinlein wrote a book that’s promotes a fascist society*; Verhoeven made a movie that satirizes fascist societies. You can go through the movie, plot point by plot point,** and see how every time, what Heinlein showed to be honorable, Verhoeven presents as a mistake, at best, foolish and ridiculous, at worst. And then there are the newscast bits in the movie. Just in case you aren’t picking up on Verhoeven’s premise, he hits you over the head with it. Repeatedly.

    To use your analogy, Verhoeven didn’t just refuse to wash dishes, he smudged them up a bit to make sure you could see just how dirty they are.

    So to me the question becomes, why is this not an important difference to you? Or why you don’t understand how an admirer of the book might find that to be unfaithful to the source?

    Unless, you’re saying the tone is the same? You’re saying that Verhoeven’s use of the flogging scene (for instance) sends the same message as Heinlein’s? You’re saying that Verhoeven thinks the society is just as utopian as Heinlein was? Or maybe you’re saying that the tonal shift was accidental? That Verhoeven didn’t really want to make an anti-fascism statement, but couldn’t help himself? Or he’s such a lousy filmmaker that he mistook reverence for satire?

    Or are you just arguing that the flogging scene, the character of Rasczak, the none-to-subtle-analogy-for-communists bugs all exist in both versions, therefore the movie is a pitch-perfect adaptation? Your story about Faramir indicates you’re capable of a more sophisticated analysis than that, so why take (and defend) a surface reading? I hope its not just cause you want to continue to sneer at Heinlein geeks uninterrupted.

    * I’m tired of arguing this point, so I’ll stipulate it. Do try to keep the endzone dancing to a minimum.

    ** If you must. How about, the MI recruiter, everything Zim says, everything Ace does, Rasczak’s death, Dizzy’s death, every time Van Dien tries to “emote”. Or, you could take a larger view of the movie as a whole and reach the same conclusion. Or not.

  97. every time, what Heinlein showed to be honorable, Verhoeven presents as a mistake, at best, foolish and ridiculous

    First time I saw the movie was a long time ago. It was long before I knew anything about Heinlein as a person or his politics*. I hadn’t read “Starship troopers” or “Old Mans War”. So, for me, the movie was my first exposure to any of this. At the time, I think I was flipping through channels and it was just starting on HBO, so I watched it. I didn’t even know Verhoeven was the director first time I saw it.

    As I was watching it, I kept seeing these fascist elements: military rule, corporal punishment, guns, guns, guns, brutal training in bootcamp, and so on. And it was all gloriously reveling in the violence. And I was a bit… shocked. I didn’t go see it at the theaters because it looked like a dumb Rambo movie, celebrating an infatuation with violence and power and guns.

    And that was what I was seeing on my TV.

    The bugs were evil, unthinking. They couldn’t be negotiated with. Diplomacy was impossible. The bugs had initiated the war against the humans. They were bad, bad, bad.

    And the humans were good, good, good. They were violent, but that was the only way the human race was going to survive, so it was neccessary to be violent. The way I saw the movie, it was saying we HAD to be that way or we would become extinct. The bugs would wipe us out. We had no choice.

    And I kept thinking, they have to know this is wrong, don’t they? The people who made the movie have to realize that they’re advocating fascism, don’t they?

    But it kept going on in a celebration of violence. Johnny earns the respect of his entire platoon by jumping on the back of a bug, shooting a hole in its back with a rifle, and dropping a grenade into it, exploding it from within. Johnny saved the day doing that. He saved lives by killing completely evil, nonthinking bugs. MIlitary is good.

    The only time I got a hint that the movie guys knew how evil a world they were portraying was when Dougie Howser eventually shows up in what looks like a Nazi uniform. When I saw that, I thought, “Oh, they DO get it”. And then I kept waiting for the bigger reveal. I kept waiting to find out the big plot twist that would reveal that this fascist world is evil. I thought for sure that they were going to show that what really happened was that the humans had initiated the war with the bugs. Or something like that. Something to show fascism was evil, rather than simply give a hint by having one character wear a Nazi styled uniform. Maybe show some collateral damage, some innocents being killed, something that would show how a fascist government works in reality.

    But it never happened. The movie ends with the humans earning a victory over the bugs, with a clean conscience. The ends justify the means. The fascist government the humans adopted was needed and justified to win against the evil bugs.

    I was shocked.

    It was after seeing that movie for the first time that I started looking into who made the movie, who wrote the book. I started reading eveyrthing I could about it, and eventually I read both Starship Troopers and Old Mans War. And I started reading about Heinlein’s politics and the reasoning behind why he wrote the novel. And i started reading about Verhoeven and his reasoning behind making the movie.

    My experience of the movie was that it too was reveling in fascism, saying it was neccessary given the evil that the humans were fighting, saying the ends justified the means, and so on. And Heinlein was actively advocating for a kind of fascism being needed to fight the communist bugs that was the Soviet Union.

    Reading about Verhoeven, I found that he wanted to show fascism for waht it is. But he did so by remaining true to the source material. And I’m not the only one who thinks Verhoeven was TRUE to the source material that was Heinlein’s novel.

    Here’s the review of “Starship Troopers” the movie from Roger Ebert.

    Ebert says he read the novel “to the point of memorization when I was in grade school”

    MEMORIZATION. So one cannot say he was some hack reviewer who was unfamiliar with the original source material. This is what Ebert says about Verhoeven’s work:

    Paul Verhoeven is facing in the other direction. He wants to depict the world of the future as it might have been visualized in the mind of a kid reading Heinlein in 1956. He faithfully represents Heinlein’s militarism, his Big Brother state, and a value system in which the highest good is to kill a friend before the Bugs can eat him. The underlying ideas are the most interesting aspect of the film.

    Ebert says Verhoeven faithfully represents Heinlein’s militarism, his state, his value system.

    Now, Ebert is not a definitive source on what the movie does and does not do with the source material. But he’s no fucking slouch either.

    My experience of the movie was similar to Ebert’s. That the movie embraced militarism, embraced the ideas that Heinlein portrayed in his novel, not invert them.

    The thing is, and this is the important thing, I believe, is something else Ebert says in his review:

    It’s based on a novel for juveniles by Robert A. Heinlein. I read it to the point of memorization when I was in grade school. I have improved since then, but the story has not.

    The problem is that the novel is a book for juveniles, and has a worldview that one might find among a group of juveniles. In fact, it isn’t too hard to imagine that if one took the kids in the story “Lord of the Flies”, brought them off the island, had them establish a new society based off of who holds the conch, and give them interstellar space ships, that they could quite easily create the govenrment described by Heinlein in “Starship Troopers”, the novel.

    It is a limited worldview. It is not all there is in the actual world.

    But again, I think the movie is actually faithful to the source material, at least as far as the ideas of military rule, corporal punishment, and so on. the power suits are gone, and some of the characters go mixed around a bit, but Mr Dubois gives the exact same kind of lectures in the movie that he gives in the novel. The government in the movie is the same in the novel. And so on.

    Roger Ebert seems to think so too.

    So, again, if you disagree, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I need something specific to look at, and “tone” isn’t enough. Dougie Howser in a Nazi-inspired uniform is the only specific thing I can think of where the movie deviates from the actual, measureable, objective content of the book. Otherwise, the flogging in the movie is exactly the same flogging that was in the book.

  98. Doc: every time Van Dien tries to “emote”.

    I missed this earlier.

    Johnny in the novel has all the emotional range of a 13 year old going through puberty. He wants to be a trooper when he grows up, he keeps arguing with his father about everything, he struts around like a peacock right after he gets out of bootcamp, he likes to threaten people who disagree with him with a fistful of knuckles, and he gets as flustered around girls like Peter Parker. That is the entirety of his emotional range.

    When his parents are killed, I don’t recall Johnny (in the novel) ever grieving. He immediately goes into anger, and immediately wants back in the military to get revenge.

    In the novel, I think the emotional range of Johnny can be summed up as: cocky, neutral, self-doubt, frustration, anger.

    Van Dien is actually fairly true to the character of Johnny that was portrayed in the novel. The problem is the character Johnny in the novel is pretty much one-dimensional emotionally speaking.

  99. I mentioned somewhere up-thread that the tone of the movie gets muddled a bit at the end. Paul Verhoeven is just not a particularly good filmmaker. One of his (many) problems is an inability to maintain a consistent tone to the end of a film. See: the last 15 minutes of Basic Instinct.

    I’m also a huge fan of Ebert, and his writing has played no small part in my development as filmviewer. But I also think Dark City is a deeply, but not fatally, flawed film, and that the Harry Potter films got better as they went along. Ebert also says this: “The one redeeming merit for director Paul Verhoeven’s film is that by remaining faithful to Heinlein’s material and period, it [the film] adds an element of sly satire.”

    You’re looking for an objective measure to base an unambiguous argument. I’m talking film criticism, an inherently subjective matter if ever there was one. There are objective measurements to be made about movies, sure. Plot fidelity, which you simultaneously want to claim is of minor and supreme importance, is one. But more important, subjectively speaking, is how these measurements relate to each other.

    You may or may not agree with that. You may decide that by hitting the plot points in the right order, without major deviation, one creates a flawless adaptation. You might even argue that the change of tone is what makes it a good adaptation. You’re probably going to get a argument. But you’re not doing either of those. What you’re trying to do is delegitimize a perfectly legitimate basis of criticism, that being a drastic change of tone between the two versions. Tone matters.

    You keep bringing up the flogging scene. But all you ever say about it is that it exists. I’m saying that it doesn’t exist to serve the same purpose to the premise, only the same purpose to the plot. If you say that it does serve the premise the same way, I’m going to tell you to look at the movie as a whole, and answer this: what is the fundamental position that both versions take on the value of this “quasi-fascist militarism” (Ebert’s term)? If you say that it doesn’t matter that the scene serves a different purpose, I’m going to say that that is a remarkably shallow analysis, and I frankly expected better.

    And through all of this, I’m trying to get an answer to another question: do you really believe that there are no legitimate criticisms to be made about Starship Troopers as an adaptation of a novel? Or is it just this one? If it is just one, lets break it down into a few, simple to answer questions:

    Does tone matter? I say yes.
    Does Verhoeven appear to be satirizing what Heinlein appears to be taking seriously? I say yes.
    Can a lack of fidelity to tone be considered a basis for identifying infidelity in the adaptation? I say yes.

  100. I’d call Johnny’s emotional range, as played by Van Dien, is “I have no Idea whats going on, but I’m gonna mope about it anyway.” Which is actually quiet impressive, as I’d say Casper Van Dien himself has about the emotional range of a turnip. And a particularly dull turnip at that.

  101. Doc: You keep bringing up the flogging scene. But all you ever say about it is that it exists. I’m saying that it doesn’t exist to serve the same purpose to the premise, only the same purpose to the plot.

    When I first saw the movie, it was without any background knowledge of either Heinlein or Verhoeven. I don’t think I even knew who directed the movie or who wrote the novel. I just wasn’t interested in it, so I didn’t bother. But it got some chatter, I was bored, it was on cable without paying any extra money, so I watched it.

    From that perspective, I saw nothing in the flogging scene that pointed to the director wanting you to view it as “bad”. There were no “tells” that I can recall. (for example, a “tell” to let the viewer know that the guy the protagonist just met is a douchebag is that he has slicked back hair. It’s not always true, but if you bet even money every time it happens, you’ll make a profit over time)

    There were no tells in the movie to say “this is wrong” that I can think of other than Dougie Howser’s nazi inspired uniform. I feel compelled to watch it now with a DVD, a remote control for pause/rewind, and a notebook, just to check.

    The flogging scene in the movie is the flogging scene of the book. I don’t recall any signals or tells or whatever that would indicate that Verhoeven wanted you to invert the premise of the book. You can’t just say “tone” without pointing to anything at all. That too will just lead to an argument.

    The thing is, I think if we look at the flogging scene, there is something about it that you think is a tell, but maybe you don’t know what it is. Maybe its as simple as you think the movie portrays the flogging scene in an “over the top” sort of way. That its too severe? And that is the tell that this is wrong? But having read the book and studied the shit out of it, I’d say that Heinlein’s flogging scene is over the top. It’s extremely severe in the book. The movie, as far as I can tell, shows an accurate portrayal of Heinlein’s flogging scene, the way Heinlein wrote it. Because Heinlein wrote what might be subjectively described as “over the top”.

    I think Heinlein’s worldviews shown in the novel were borderline crazy, and I think the movie shows exactly what that worldview would look like in the medium of a movie.

    I’m saying that it doesn’t exist to serve the same purpose to the premise, only the same purpose to the plot.

    I don’t know what you mean by this unless you’re really still just holding onto the idea that the “true” premise to the novel is nothing more than “military is good”. if that’s what you think the premise of the book really is, then yeah, the movie sucked. But I don’t think that’s the only premise to the book. It’s a lot more fascist than just “military is good”. It’s “military rule is the best form of government history has ever seen”. That kind of “premise” creates an atmosphere that can only be described as crazy.

    And when I watched the movie for the first time with no background on anything, I saw a movie that had as its premise “military rule is the best form of government history has ever seen”. I saw a movie that was insane about its worldview of how humans worked. When I got around to reading the book, I saw that exact same worldview, that exact same premise of “military rule”, and that exact same flavor of insanity.

    You want to talk about “tone”?

    Fine, then you have to really embrace that the “tone” of the novel is hell and gone far away from just saying “mlitary is good”. You have to embrace that the tone of the book also includes a strong vein of “Fascism! Rah! Rah! Rah!”

    Because “Fascism! Rah! Rah! Rah!” was the tone of the movie. And that tone in the movie exactly captures the “Fascism! Rah! Rah! Rah!” tone that is throughout the novel.

  102. If Heinlein did indeed want a world like that in which Starship Troopers takes place – or, in Greg’s opinion, “Heinlein was actively advocating for a kind of fascism being needed to fight the communist bugs that was the Soviet Union” – it also seems plausible that Heinlein knew that in reality, the world can never achieve the “scientifically verifiable theory of morals” upon which the leadership of Johnnie Rico’s government depends. In the real world, as has been so elegantly stated many times before, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.”

    Assume for a moment that you are given the go-ahead to make a Starship Troopers film adaptation, that you have a chance to come at the material straightforwardly (rather than through the “Bug Hunt” route taken by Verhoeven’s version). Can this even be done? How do you depict the society (both civilian and military) through Johnnie’s eyes the way the book does, wherein he’s essentially a cipher whose only personality traits are those that resonate with the unassailable, right-by-definition, scientifically-verifiable-theory-of-morals-based, qualities of his society?

  103. Two things.

    First: Casper Van Dien himself has about the emotional range of a turnip. And a particularly dull turnip at that.

    But an extremely decorative turnip.

    Second: Are you guys still arguing about Startrip Shoopers? Seriously?

  104. Ooooooooohhhhhh, so you are saying that the tone of the movie and book are exactly the same. You don’t see any tonal differences between the two pieces. Why jeepers, why didn’t you just say so? Here I’ve been trying to convince you that a tonal shift matters. I thought we agreed that there was a tonal shift. Seriously, man, all you had to say was “The tone isn’t different.” Why was that so hard?

    Of course, I’m not sure how you’re missing the satirical tone of the movie. The news casts alone are so comically over the top as to make Verhoeven’s intentions plain as day*. The flogging scene has never read to me as “This is good; this is what it takes” (the way it did in the novel**) as much as “look how abusive this is”. In fact, that’s actually one of the few moments where Verhoeven is straight critiquing the situation, rather than caricaturing it. Yeah, I know, you don’t see caricature. But like I said, I don’t think you’re seeing any of the satire, not really. But, hey, whatever. It doesn’t work for you, fine. I never said it was good satire.

    *Also, given how much value you’ve put into authorial intent in this discussion, there have been several references up thread to Verhoeven claiming that he intended Starship Troopers to be anti-fascist. So, there’s that.

    ** No, I never agreed with Heinlein then, either. Nor did I agree with him in Tunnel in the Sky, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or several sections of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and Farhnam’s Freehold. But I never lost my shit over it either. I think Ebert has the right of it about Heinlein, especially in that era: “Heinlein was of course a right-wing saberrattler, but a charming and intelligent one who wrote some of the best science fiction ever.”

  105. Xopher, actually what I thought we were arguing about was the importance of translating the tone, and with it the premise, of the source material in an adaptation, using ST as an example. Seems I was wrong about that.

    Alternatively, we’re not arguing whether or not is awful, but rather why it’s so awful.

  106. Doc: How about, the MI recruiter

    There’s a recruiter in the novel. He was missing some limbs in the novel. In the novel, he kept trying to talk Johnny out of enlisting, and I seem to recall that in the novel the recruiter actually got a bit beligerent with Johnny to discourage him.

    everything Zim says

    First of all, how can you bad mouth Clancy Brown? I’m a huge fan of his. From Rawhide in Buckaroo Bonzai, to the Kurgen in Highlander, to Mr Krabs in Spongebob Squarepants. You want to diss my man? ;)

    Second of all, I seriously do not recall anything that came out of his mouth that was out of character for a drill instructor.

    Third of all, in chapter 3 of the novel, Zim breaks Breckenbridge’s arm and knocks two german boys unconscious.

    I can’t remember if the movie showed Zim committing this level of violence against the men in bootcamp.

    everything Ace does

    First of all, real life military has their share of screwballs. Second of all, a lot of fiction has a screwball character so that the audience can at least feel smarter than that guy. Ron Weasley for example.

    third of all, Johnny has a big knockdown, drag out fight with Ace, in chapter 11 of the book. As I recall, it was for no rational reason, just that Johnny got assigned a job over Ace, and it was part of the culture that Johnny would have to “earn” the right to command Ace by fighting him.

    And I don’t recall the movie showing that part of Heinlein’s novel. If so, the movie took a soft approach to Heinlein’s hardass ways.

    Rasczak’s death

    The lieutenant is killed in chapter 10. And it has a major affect on the unit for a long time.

    Did I miss something?

    Dizzy’s death

    Dizzy Flores dies at the end of chapter 1, after the drop ships pick them up.

    One thing that Heinlein did was he put took a big combat scene from later on in the chronological story and made it chapter 1 of the book. I assume to put something interesting in the front, because the next 8 chapters are pretty much nothing but polemics from various characters.

    every time Van Dien tries to “emote”.

    Even turnips have to eat, man. Come on.


  107. Alternatevely alternatively, you’re just arguing. But it wasn’t wasted effort, Doc. I found your arguments interesting and well expressed. I’ve never seen the movie, and it’s been years since I read the book, so I can’t weigh in on the points you make except to say that you made them well and I enjoyed reading them.

  108. Doc: Seriously, man, all you had to say was “The tone isn’t different.” Why was that so hard?

    Because we were arguing about “premise” for a while.

    Of course, I’m not sure how you’re missing the satirical tone of the movie. The news casts alone are so comically over the top as to make Verhoeven’s intentions plain as day*.

    When I saw the first newscast, I assumed that the movie was the same guy who did Robocop and that was just his shtick. I thought the ads in Robocop were hilarious. Pakistan is threatening my border? Nukem! Get them before they get you!

    You do realize that if you took the dialogue from the recruiters and from Mr Dubois, from the novel, and have someone act out those words in front of a camera, you would get something that quite a few people would consider “over the top”?

    I’m pretty sure that’s really where we’re disagreeing. I’m guessing here but it’s something like this: You think that if someone took Mr Dubois’ words from the novel and acted them out legitimately on camera that they would sound…. reasonable, or at least less crazy than the crazy that they sound like in Verhoeven’s movie.

    I think Dubois sounds like a fucking maniac. He just happens to have a uniform and power as a teacher of history and moral philosophy and power as an officer to force people to listen to him. But he’s fucking insane. And I think if someone acted out his words in front of a camera, they would look like the insanity that is shown on the movie.

    I can only assume that you think Dubois in the novel would not sound like, not look like, not act like the way he does in the movie. I think the movie is a spot on representation of him.

    there have been several references up thread to Verhoeven claiming that he intended Starship Troopers to be anti-fascist. So, there’s that.

    Yes, I think I mentioned that about Verhoeven myself. But, that’s “intent”, not “tone”. Tone is in the movie or in the fiction. Intent is in the author’s mind. I seem to recall that quite a few people actually misread Verhoevens’ “intent” for his movie and thought it was embracing facism. But that’s because the tone in the movie was the tone in the novel, and the tone in the novel was “Fascism! Rah! Rah! Rah!”

  109. gottacook: you have a chance to come at the material straightforwardly (rather than through the “Bug Hunt” route taken by Verhoeven’s version). Can this even be done?

    Chapter 1: flash forward to Johnny in combat
    Chapter 2: Johnny kid in High School, polemic, enlists.
    Chapter 3: Johnny’s first day of bootcamp
    Chapter 4: Johnny at training
    Chapter 5: Hendrick’s flogged and bad conduct discharge
    Chapter 6: Johnny gets mail, polemics
    Chapter 7: Johnny gets flogged
    chapter 8: polemic. beat your puppy to train him.
    chapter 9: Johnny gets in a fight on R&R, graduate
    chapter 10: Johnny assigned a ship, Beunus Aries destroyed
    chapter 11: Johnny signs up for OCS.
    chapter 12: Johnny sees his Dad. Polemics.
    Chapter 13: Johnny is a third lieutenant. Combat.
    Chapter 14: Johnny is an officer. preparing to drop.

    If you tried making a movie that was “straightforward” version of the novel, you’d have a flash-forward combat scene at the beginning, then go back to high school and watch Johnny go through a lot of speechmaking from Dubois and friends until he gets to chapter 10 where they finally get into combat. After which he goes to officer schoool, where we get more speeches. Johnny becomes an officer and starts making the speeches that everyone has been making to him. Chapter 13 has him go into combat again. And Chapter 14 has him preparing for a drop as an officer, embracing all the “unassailable, right-by-definition, scientifically-verifiable-theory-of-morals-based, qualities of his society”.

    It would be difficult to do “straight” as you say, because the book is fairly one dimensional, and most of it is little more than Johnny in one form of school or another (high school, boot camp, OCS) being indoctrinated in the rules of his ” unassailable, right-by-definition, scientifically-verifiable-theory-of-morals-based” society. It’s just a straight plod from highschool and Johnny listening to Mr Dubois to officer and Johnny saying the things that Dubois said.

  110. Greg: That is exactly my point. Any straightforward adaptation of ST would be one-dimensional. If it hadn’t been Verhoeven, it would have been someone else who’d have made a movie that some number of people would have felt “viloated” the novel.

    To get back to the point of this thread: Assume you are confronted with the task of adapting OMW (or, I should say, rewriting someone else’s adaptation – which, in other movies whose production I’ve read about, sometimes has involved putting back into the story what someone earlier had taken out). Might you choose to (for example) start out with a green-skinned platoon’s battle scene, maybe even with Jane although we don’t know who she is yet, then go back to the Ohio scenes? The first adaptation of Lolita (the Kubrick version) had a screenplay by Nabokov himself, and although little of it was filmed, Kubrick did retain Nabokov’s choice to do exactly this – opening the movie with the penultimate scene of the novel, the confrontation of Humbert and Quilty. I’m sure other adapters have done this too, and for well-thought-out reasons.

  111. OMW, I think, could be done in a more straightforward fashion

    [This section deleted because Greg, dude, not every one here’s read OMW, believe it or not. – JS]

    It starts with the “out of whack” event of visiting his wife’s grave. Off to the recruiiter and up the elevator. On the station, transfer to new body, and play “basketball” in the new body….

    hm. this is sounding a LOT like the opening to “Pandora”. Starts with a funeral, recruiters offer him a job, on pandora, into new body, and runs around playing basketball.

  112. We all have probably seen adaptations of novels we enjoyed that were extremely faithful to the original story, followed it from beginning to end, but (to our disappointment) just lay there on the screen. For me a good example is The Assistant – the 1957 Bernard Malamud novel that was adapted in the 1990s, with a proven director (Daniel Petrie) and cast, but didn’t earn a theatrical release. Another 1950s Malamud novel – The Natural – was adapted in the 1980s and was a big hit; of course they’d changed the ending 180 degrees from that of the book…

  113. Doc, don’t know if you’re still reading this thread, but I had one question that I still wonder about. Do you think Michael Ironsides did an apt representation of Rasczak that matched the novel?

    I thought he did a good job. I always pictured the novel as something along the lines of Jack Nicolson’s Colonel Jessep doing the “You can’t handle the truth” speech. That, or R. Lee Ermey’s drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket”.

    Ironsides didn’t have quite the same “umph”, but I thought Ironsides channeled the novel well.

    did you imagine it looking differently?

  114. I must not have read the same Starship Troopers as others here because mine didn’t have any military requirement for citizenship. What was required was a willingness to put the needs of the country first. Johnny wound up in the military as a last choice because he had no more useful skills.
    In the book I read, one could become a voting citizen without ever doing anything remotely military, although clearly in a time of warfare that became less likely. What counted was that you put the needs of the country ahead of your own.

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